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History

The judicial district of Brussels, covering the administrative districts of Brussels Capital and Halle-Vilvoorde, has a Bar which, since the law of 4 May 1984, is divided into two Bars, the Dutch and the French.

Dutch Brussels Bar members are lawyers whose offices are situated in Brussels-Capital (the 19 boroughs) and who wish to belong to the Dutch Bar, and all lawyers who set up or have set up their offices in the administrative district of Halle-Vilvoorde (that is, within the judicial district of the Justice of the Peace Courts of Asse, Grimbergen, Halle, Herne - Sint-Pieters-Leeuw, Kraainem, Overijse, Sint-Genesius-Rode, Sint-Kwintens-Lennik, Vilvoorde, Wolvertem (Meise) and Zaventem) on or after 7 September 1994 (ten years after the law of 4 May 1984 came into force). Lawyers who were already established in the administrative district of Halle-Vilvoorde before 7 September 1994 could (and can) continue to be registered to the French  Bar, provided they belonged to the French  Bar before that date.

The two Bars were established after many years of discussion. When the Judicial Code came into effect in 1967, each of the two language groups in the combined Bar were allotted representation of not less than one-quarter of the total number of seats on the Bar Council under an agreement between the Vlaams Pleitgenootschap and the Bar Council under the presidency of Mr. Maurice Cornil; but this agreement did not lay down any rules on electing the President, which meant in practice that a Dutch speaker had little to no chance of becoming the head of the Association. At the same time, at the Flemish side , the conviction grew that therewere not enough guaranteed Dutch speakers on the Council, while some thought that a 'Flemish' approach would be different from the approach taken by a Bar with a French majority.

This dissatisfaction on the Flemish side led to a search for reforms, which started formally under the Presidency of Mr. Robert Boccart in 1979, and via a ‘mixed commission’ set up under the Presidency of Mr. Jacques de Gavre led to an agreement announced to all members of the Brussels bar on 18 May 1982. Under this agreement, two independent Bars were set up, albeit within a single Bar, with Brussels-Capital lawyers having the option to choose, and lawyers whose offices were in the administrative district of Halle-Vilvoorde (including communities with language facilities) being bound to join the Dutch Bar after a transitional period for. In their professional activities, both towards their clients, as well as their fellow lawyers and courts, any lawyer was (and still is) entirely free to choose which language they work in, insofar as the law allows; naturally, mixed-language associations were also allowed. The agreement was upheld in law on 4 May 1984, the act coming into force on 7 September 1984.

The first elections for the Presidents and Councils of both Associations were held on 3 December 1984, by which 1,857 lawyers (1,315 lawyers entered on the list of lawyers and 522 trainees) were elected for the French Bar and 702 lawyers (419 entered on the list of lawyers and 283 trainees) for the Dutch Bar, or 72.6% and 27.4% respectively.

The proportions as at 7th of June 2018 were as follows:

  • French Bar: 4047 lawyers entered on the list of lawyers and list of trainees.
  • Dutch Bar: 2137 lawyers entered on the list of lawyers, 712 trainees, 49 members of foreign (non-EU) bars and 167 lawyers from EU Member States.